Pre-draft Dallas Keuchel rumor roundup

Prepared for a beardless Dallas Keuchel? (Elsa/Getty Images)

There are still two of the top free agents from this past offseason unsigned. While the Yankees hardly need a reliever (sorry, Craig Kimbrel), the Bombers could use a boost in the starting rotation and have thus been tied to Dallas Keuchel.

Here’s a rundown on some recent reports and rumors about the 2015 American League Cy Young winner:

Boras: Keuchel could be ready to pitch in a week

Beyond negotiating record deals, agent Scott Boras is known for talking a big game. With Keuchel as his client, he is no different. The agent told MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi that the left-hander would be ready to pitch within one week of signing, should the signing team want him that quickly.

A one-week timeline would be ambitious, but we’re also in uncharted territory. Last year’s free-agent class was seemingly less prepared for a long wait during the winter, but Boras and Keuchel had a gameplan. Keuchel has reported been throwing 95+-pitch bullpen sessions to remain sharp and ready. There aren’t many top-shelf (and healthy) starting pitchers to sit out nearly half a season.

Keuchel may not literally be ready in a week’s time, but Boras’ comments indicate he’d be ready quickly. For the many teams in need of pitching help, that’s good news. Whether he’d be effective a week out from signing is anybody’s guess.

Yankees a frontrunner for Keuchel

SNY’s Andy Martino termed the Yankees as well-positioned to sign the free agent left-hander. He was careful to mention that other team’s are involved and there’s no contract ready to go, but he’s also not the first person to tie Keuchel to the Yankees. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman similarly wrote about the Yankees’ interest in the left-hander.

Though James Paxton has returned and CC Sabathia is set to do the same Sunday, the Yankees’ rotation depth has thinned with Luis Severino and Jonathan Loaisiga out. J.A. Happ has been homer prone while Domingo German has an innings limit of some kind.

It was previously reported by Newsday’s Erik Boland that the Yankees sent a scout to watch one of Keuchel’s bullpen sessions. They’re not the only team to have seen him pitch, but it’s a good sign of interest in the 31-year-old.

Keuchel likely to sign soon after midnight Monday

Keuchel is expected to sign at some point soon after midnight on Monday, June 3, according to Heyman. That is, not coincidentally, the time when he will no longer be tied to draft-pick compensation.

Heyman underlines the Yankees and Braves as top teams in pursuit of the left-hander while mentioning four other teams. There’s real competition here.

Rays also interested

If the Yankees don’t sign Keuchel, they may have to face him multiple times this year. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal wrote about the Rays’ interest in Keuchel to boost their rotation, which lost Tyler Glasnow to the 60-day IL in early May. Heyman also mentioned the Rays as a possible suitor.

Though they’ve had tremendous results from their pitching staff, the Rays are thin at the moment. Without Glasnow, they’re down to two traditional starters, Blake Snell and Charlie Morton, while using a trio of bulk pitchers tied to openers in Yonny Chirinos, Jalen Beeks and the recently recalled Ryan Yarbrough.

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8 Comments

  1. Max

    The Heyman Keuchel thing is not news. It’s literally just Heyman making stuff up, and then other people referencing him.

  2. RetroRob

    The team that signs Keuchel will need to meet his price, but an equally important consideration for Keuchel and Boras will be guaranteed starts. They’ll want to work toward next year’s deal, and that means guaranteed starts. That may work against the Yankees.

    The Astros, the Rays and a few other contenders can pretty much slot him into their rotations without little fear on Keuchel’s side that he’ll eventually be removed. The Yankees, on the other hand, would need to REMOVE a starter from the rotation. The whole “these things usually work themselves out” are nice words, but within a couple weeks the Yankees might be faced with the reality of removing:

    1) Doming German. That’s an option due to eventual workload concerns, yet he’s 9-1 and has been their best starter, even with his recent glitch. We know he has an innings cap somewhere, but he’s nowhere near it now at 60 innings. He’s pitched as many as 123 innings in a season twice, IIRC, which means he could go up to 150+. He has plenty of runway in front of him. Imagine replacing German with Keuchel at this point in the season and then having Keuchel pitching like Happ, and I’d rate the odds of that happening as uncomfortably high based on Keuchel’s peripherals, moving to Yankees Stadium and the AL East, and being thrown into games mid-season against hitters in top form. Happ II. Speaking of which…

    2) J.A. Happ. He’s been the weakest starter, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be the weakest starter moving forward. Look no further than last season. He had a 4.80 ERA on May 10th, eight starts into 2018; he had a 4.44 ERA through 18 starts as late as July 7th last year. Over his final 13 starts, 11 of them for the Yankees, he had a 2.49 ERA. That’s who Happ is. ERA is not the best way to look a these things, but it’s a quick reminder of how he pitched last year during different segments. There are warning signs, absolutely, based on age (36) decreased spin rate, increased HRs and some concerning trend lines over the last couple seasons. The issue, though, is the same can be said about Keuchel, so replacing Happ with Keuchel may mean replacing one pitcher with an equivalent type.

    Ok, but that’s fine. Add Keuchel and bump “someone” from the rotation. The Yankees are still likely better off because they’ve added a sixth starter, a major leaguer with success, so when the next inevitable injury happens, or when they really do want to reduce German’s workload, they have someone in house. Great.

    That brings us to:

    Luis Severino. He’ll be back probably in a few weeks after Keuchel is signed, so yet another starter will need to be pulled unless there’s another injury. So maybe in a couple weeks Happ is pulled from the rotation, and then the following month when Severino returns, German is pulled from the rotation. The Yankees then have German and Happ to rest the other starters and have them available if there’s injury. Of course, they won’t be stretched out after a while, but they’ll be available. That’s fine for the Yankees, but not fine for Keuchel, and that’s really point of my way-too-long note.

    Boras and Keuchel see all this. The Yankees can’t guarantee Keuchel will have a spot the rest of the way. That means all things being equal, or close to equal (talking money here), Keuchel will pick another team not named the Yankees. It’s not just about 2019. It’s about the 2020 contract.

    Keuchel signing with the Yankees is good for the Yankees; Keuchel signing with the Yankees may not be good for Keuchel and Boras.

    That all said, now watch Keuchel sign with the Yankees in about 32 hours.

    • lightSABR

      You have a point, but we were one rainout away from another bullpen game this series and, though it happened after you posted, we just got more evidence that it’s midnight for German’s fairy godmother. And Paxton’s playing hurt, and the trainers haven’t exactly earned our trust this year when it comes to getting Severino back in prime pitching condition.

      I think Keuchel would get his starts just fine. And I think the Yankees would be crazy not to sign him at this point.

      • RetroRob

        lightSABR, sure, but to be clear, I’m not questioning the Yankees signing Keuchel. They should be looking at adding a sixth starter. I’d be concerned giving him on a multi-year deal, but I’m totally on board bringing him in for the remainder of 2019. I’m simply noting that Keuchel and Boras are going to take the best situation, and that might not be the Yankees.

        • lightSABR

          You make a point worth making, to be sure.

  3. BillyMartinVanBuren Boys

    This has the feeling of being one of those situations that come back to bite them if they don’t land him. Maybe it’s just recent memory of the ones that got away (Verlander, etc). I was on the fence in the off-season about Keuchel but now I want him on this team lol

  4. Deltajoe15

    The Rays don’t make me laugh They have mouth balls in there wallets

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